Washington DC, January 25, 2003

Williams conducted ‘The Imperial March’… with a lightsaber!

Several of our board members attended the Saturday 25 performance at Washington DC’s Lincoln Center…

From ‘Eplicon’:

This is the first time I got to see Williams play the piano, and he did his usual virtuoso fingering around. He played the higher keys, while Slatkin performed the lower. It was quite frenetic and humorous, topped by the fact that for this performance the two of them were wearing caps, like bankers (or piano players) did in the old days.

There was a very funny Star Wars moment at the concert. For an encore, Leonard Slatkin came out to commend John Williams and the orchestra, and added that it was usually a thrill for him to conduct a piece by a composer, with the composer present. Slatkin went on to say words to the effect that when he was on tour last year in Germany, he did a Berlioz piece, and that the audience heard this instead. (He then began conducting “The Imperial March” with a lot of vigor and energy.) Williams, who was to Slatkin’s left, did some “co-conducting,” as if to instruct parts of the orchestra that they needed to perform it a certain way. In mock disgust, waved his hands, and walked off stage. Moments later, he came back on, with an ignited red lightsaber, and began waving it, much to the audience’s delight. Slatkin then reached under the conducting podium and took out a green lightsaber and ignited it. The two playfully did a duel while the orchestra continued to perform flawlessly. It then ended up with them using their respective lightsabers as batons and conducting side-by-side simulataneously. It was truly a memorable moment!

After that, Williams conducted the Star Wars main theme, which he had also did as an encore for Thurday night’s show (following a very nice rendition of “Across the Stars”). While I didn’t have the opportunity to attend the Friday afternoon show, the two encores were “The Imperial March” and “Harry’s Wonderous World.”

From ‘Mari’:

The new piano piece was a silent film-esque score, but I could hear the Williams touch in it! The clips were great and ranged from The Perils of Pauline, The Sheik, a Charlie Chaplin bit (which received some applause) to The Keystone Cops. It looked like both John Williams and Leonard Slatkin were having just as much fun as the audience!

During the intermission between the Slatkin selections and the JW selections as the orchestra warmed up, usually with random noise, but occasionally a recognizable bit of music, I heard a little bit of “Hedwig’s Theme” and wondered if it was going to be an encore. Sure enough, after the concert ended JW came on stage to introduce the first encore and said “Here’s a collection of themes from the Harry Potter movies that I like to call ‘Harry’s Wonderous World’.” Gasps of delight were heard throughout the audience and then the orchestra played the music beautifully and received thunderous applause! JW left the stage and came back with Leonard Slatkin who led the orchestra in a very high energy “Imperial March.” Toward the end, he pulled out the red light saber and pointed it at JW (lots of audience laughter) and then continued conducting with it!

TheForce.net has another report with pictures of the event

Duel of the Conductors
Tue, Jan 28, 03 10:47:14 PM EDT

Dorell chimes in with the following report from a John Williams concert held this past Saturday:

Hey fellow Star Wars fans. Bear with me, this may be a bit lengthy, but I felt it worth sharing. Besides, there’s a nice treat at the end. Now, if you’re anything like me then one thing about the Star Wars films you love is the music. Who doesn’t get chills down their spine when they hear the Imperial March? Whose eyes doesn’t get wide when they hear the Star Wars theme as the movie opens? Yes, yes..without the music, the movie would be missing a key element.That goes for any movie when you think about it. Recently, I had the opportunity to go see John Williams conducting the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The series he was involved in was taking a look at soundtracks and this particular night was dedicated to how music was synched to the movie. Williams and Leonard Slatkin took the audience through history, starting with the traditional silent film, providing the pictures they were showing on screen with music from a single piano. Then, guest star Stanley Donen from musical era fame, joined Williams on stage as they took a look at the movie musical. Williams conducted pieces from Singing in the Rain, Anchors Away, and so on with Donen right there. Truly a pleasure.

The second half of the evening consisted of Williams taking the audience through the process of synching music to film. He discussed the math, click counts, timing, accent points, etc.

The piece he selected to do was the opening sequence from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It truly was amazing to see the film without music, hear Williams discuss where he and Spielberg decided to put the musical accents, and then have Williams conduct the orchestra in synch to the film. I don’t know about you, but..I didn’t think it was that complicated of a process. He conducted a few more pieces. Those who are fans of Bugs might know his little cartoon clip Baton Bugs. Then, for the finale to tie together all the elements presented that evening, Williams ran through the ending sequence of ET. Not a dry eye in the house. Who wouldn’t cry at the lines “Ouch” or “I’ll be right here”?

I know what you’re thinking. How could Williams go through an entire night and not play a piece from Star Wars? Yeah, I thought that too as I sat in my seat. Then..I remembered things called encores that usually happen when a standing ovation is given (which Williams did get). So..Slatkin and Williams come out and Slatkin does a little dialogue while walking up to the conductor’s podium about when Episode II opened worldwide and that he treated the audience he was conducting for that evening with…and he paused there, jumped in the air and as his feet hit the ground the orchestra started the Imperial March. Ooo..shivers. It’s one thing to hear the tune on screen or on the soundtrack..but..live? Wow.

So, Slatkin is conducting away, Williams critiquing with hand gestures and weird furrows of the brow. Deciding he had had enough of it, Williams walks offstage much to the disappointment of Slatkin. Hold on folks, this is where it gets good. Just as the orchestra reaches the “dun dun dun dun-dudun dun-dudun” Williams walks out weilding a red lightsaber! He stalks across the stage ready to take down Slatkin and just as he takes a swing, Slatkin pulls out a green lightsaber and a duel commences.

That made the night just even more spectacular. After a few swings, the two conductors get back to the podium and finish conducting with their lightsabers in hand.

Nothing more could really top that performance, so, to wind down, Williams conducted the Star Wars Suite which had the Star Wars theme with pieces of various character themes woven throughout. The audience was just sitting there in awe. It was truly a night to remember and one I was glad to be a part of.

Thanks to Dorell for the great report and pics!

Leave a Reply